Flashback to PW’15: hitting the submit button was a thrill—I’d worked up the nerve to send my work to some very talented and successful mentor-writers. But it was also a huge relief—it had been an entry months in the making. My writing To-Do list self-destructed in a single click…and what an awesome feeling that was! Nothing left to do with the ms for the moment—done!
Mid-August, with the sub window about to close, I turned to prepping my classroom and attending in-services. The flood was imminent—grading and planning, researching and teaching, meetings and emails. Over and over I thought, Good thing I had the summer to finish my entry for Pitchwars. And I just wouldn’t have had the time in the school year. And Working more on the book will have to wait.
Then I got picked as a mentee, and I had to make time to keep going.
For anyone considering entering Pitchwars (or other contests), but worried about the deadlines and the time commitment, or anyone just struggling to fit in a few hours of writing in the week—I hear you. The frustration is real.
Time is a funny thing, though—you can never seem to have enough, but it is somewhat manipulable. Kind of like Hermione with her Time Turner, you can overrule the constraints that time puts on you.
One of the biggest lessons I learned during PW was that I managed significant revisions and rewritings despite being real-life busy. Pitchwars was motivating, and my mentor gave me awesome ideas and encouragement, but the improved book came about from work that I did. You can make the time to move forward on your book goals.
These tricks for making time are not new. You know them. You’ve done them. They work with varying degrees of success depending on your habits, day job, family, and personality. So maybe consider this list a self-check, or a calming take-a-breath moment to review some ways in which you can take control of the clock.
- Can you limit your screen time more? Cut down on FB and Twitter unless it’s book-related correspondence, until you reach a word or page goal. Try sticking to only a few hours a week or less of TV. Or use a streaming service to catch up after you meet a goal.
2. Can you be more efficient with your reading choices? Don’t give up reading altogether! But reading a new police thriller when you’re writing younger historical MG may not be the most time-saving choice. Read at bedtime if that suits you, and sleep well knowing you fit in a craft chapter, a bit of research, or a comp title into your day at the eleventh hour.
3. Can you wake up earlier (or go to sleep later)? Even a half-hour a day of added writing time can get you pages ahead by the end of the week.
4. What can you carve and whittle off the clock? Can you write on your commute? In the car-rider pick-up lane at your kids’ school? In the waiting room at appointments? Look at your day-to-day schedule and pry open some windows of opportunity. Take notes on your phone, bring along a reference book for research, or own the archaic with a red pen and a chapter print-out.
5. Leave work at work (said no classroom teacher ever, lol). Well, okay…to the extent possible. Try to get as much of your day job done at the office or the school or the business, to allow more writing hours evenings and weekends. When can you sneak in some extra time for work at work? Though I missed my colleagues at lunchtime the year I was a mentee, I used that 25 minutes every day to grade, copy, and plan. I’d try to stay a bit after hours, too, if it meant I could go home mostly unencumbered and have more minutes for revisions once the kids were in bed.
6. Give yourself a break. Don’t go for mom/dad of the year or employee of the month, right now. You’re trying to write/revise/publish a BOOK. That’s enough—because you will instruct, inspire, and entertain through those words. Your book may save someone in some way you may never even know about. You are already doing a valiant, noble, and very cool thing. So if it’s mac and cheese for the third time this week, so what? It’s just food. The living room’s a mess? More important things. You skipped a volunteer activity? Catch up next month. Many, many people say they should write a book. Many of them start trying to write one. But you and I and a small (by comparison) community of other writers are actually following those words up with the continued, forward-moving action that could lead to fulfillment and success.
One time as a mentee during PW revisions I tweeted the mac and cheese thing, out of wry guilt. Several awesome fellow writers sent links to quick meal ideas and make-ahead recipes. You’ll hear it over and over—writers comprise a highly supportive community. If you stress and struggle with time, you are not alone! Trust yourself that you too can become a skilled time-turner, and keep moving forward.
Can’t wait to mentor this year…don’t worry, future prospective mentee. We’ll both make the time.